Abundant Harvests - garden info, Climate solutions

garden by mconnors via MorguefileHere’s how our gardens can become part of solving some of the world’s greatest problems.

LIVING ECOSYSTEMS.  Humanity is part of  a vast network of life on this tiny planet. The planet’s ecosystems operate as intricate interconnected and interdependent systems, so vast that scientists are only beginning to glimpse their magnitude and complexity. “The environment” is a life-support system – for us as well as for all living beings. Without functional ecosystems, we have no life.

As we, humanity, become more conscious, it is becoming increasingly apprarent that all design must support ecosystems. From pollinator populations to soil organisms, Nature needs our help.   Continue Reading

Abundant Harvests - garden info

Many popular garden books promote methods such as the “Lasagna method”: You layer materials such as cardboard, black plastic, compost, mulch, etc., on top of grass and create a garden. In Southern California we must evaluate such recommendations carefully:

  • Does the person who is telling of great Lasagna success live in a year-round growing season, or do they have the benefit of a frost to help eradicate weeds and pests?

  • Does the storyteller have Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon)?

  • Are they speaking of long-term success: Have their observations endured beyond Bermuda’s regrowth timespan or were those Lasagna layers very recently applied?

Here in Southern California, without frost of any significance and with nearly every backyard being populated with Bermuda grass, in my experience there is only one long-term viable solution: Continue Reading

Abundant Harvests - garden info

It’s easy to get seed from your vegetables.  Just let Nature do her thing.

It’s a little bit more challenging to be sure that you’re getting the kinds of seeds you want.  Plants (kinda like outdoor cats) make offspring quite willingly, with any other plant that will participate.

In a small garden, one really easy simple trick is to grow one variety of each species.  You’ll get lots of diversity in your food and nutrition, and you’ll get a much greater assurance of growing good seeds.

Here’s the “Seedsaving without worries” handout (pdf) that I wrote for this weekend’s talk at the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA).  It has slightly different content than this post. Continue Reading

Abundant Harvests - garden info

cropped-Change-Making-app-icon.pngHow do you know what to plant when?

Here in Southern California we have a year-round growing season.  But that doesn’t mean super-delicious tomatoes every day of the year.  Rather, it means working with the seasons — warm, hot, and cool — to grow the right plants at the right times. Continue Reading

Abundant Harvests - garden info, Vegetable Crop Rotation Wheel

Do you need a powerful tool to help you with organic pest control AND maintaining soil fertility in your vegetable garden?

Crop rotation means following a conscious system of planting in which related plants are grown in different spots year after year. It’s fairly easy to do, and as a side benefit, it can help to expand the diversity of your harvests.

Crop rotation for soil fertility

Some of humanity’s favorite vegetable plants (for example, the squash family) are nutrient-hogs. They demand a lot from the soil and can leave the soil quite depleted.

Other plants (the legume family) give back — they actually help restore and replenish soil nutrients. In crop rotation we use these characteristics to our advantage.

In a simple crop rotation, you might plant peas or beans before the squash family to assure highly fertile soil for great harvests. And you might plant peas or beans again after the squash family, to prepare the soil for the next set of crops. Crop rotation is one of several soil-building techniques in our arsenal.

Crop rotation for pest control

Many pests and plant diseases are soil residents. Many of these beasties spend part of their life cycle in the soil, or leave eggs or spores in the soil to bridge from one generation to the next.

Additionally, most pests and plant diseases are host-specific — they prefer to feast on one particular type of plant and its relatives.

We can leverage these characteristics by using a system of crop rotation to help keep the beasties under control.

As the new generation of beasties hatches, if their favorite dinner plant isn’t growing in the area where they’re hatching, they go hungry. An entire generation starves.

If that favorite dinner plant isn’t grown in that spot for two years, or even three, you’ve significantly reduced the pest population in your garden. Without pesticides. Simply by being conscious about what you plant where and when.

To make your planning easier, I developed the Vegetable Crop Rotation Wheel. (L) It gives you an easy “plug and play” system for a diverse food garden, with a four-year crop rotation.

More on crop rotation …

Abundant Harvests - garden info, Cityscape Seeds

babygreensOh, this is the season for leafy greens and root vegetables — and an El Niño year is no exception!

They grow plenty of veggies in English gardens and (although we in So Cal may be unaccustomed to it) that’s the kind of climate we have here this winter.

Just to prove my point, yesterday evening my smartphone weather app had the same forecast for London as for L.A. … rainy, high 40s …

The thing to know about wet winters and gardens (in addition to El Niño flood preparations) is:

Continue Reading

Abundant Harvests - garden info, Community Garden at Holy Nativity

forestgarden dec2015A forest garden is a garden of perennial plants that produce food.  It is often designed to look “forest-like,” with trees forming a canopy above, and smaller plants creating a “forest floor” effect underneath.

As part of the Westchester Community Oven project, we had always intended to try adding a food forest garden to the Community Garden at Holy Nativity.

Since the spot chosen was under an asphalt parking lot for at least 30 years, the first step was some soil remediation. Continue Reading